Hike #10 in "Hikes of Western Newfoundland" is my personal favourite trek to date in all of Western Newfoundland. The International Appalachian Trail's Lewis Hills Traverse has it all; big views, challenging terrain, plus you get to bag the highest peak on the island! What more could you ask for?
It's June 19, 2013 and I am standing on the side of the Serpentine Lake access road with Cory and Alex, packs on ready to go. This hike had been at the top of my bucket list for six years and now it was finally here. You know that feeling - the one of excitement, wonder and a degree of "can I really do it?" all mixed up inside you - that's how I was feeling standing there on the side of that gravel road.
It was an overcast day but warm with a typical northwest breeze blowin'. June is a great time to trek, everything is just coming into bloom, its fresh and getting warmer, not to mention you have the longest days of the year to play with. We dropped of the road and right away had to cross Blue Hill Brook, which then required some sleuthing to find the trail again. Following along through the forest, we began to climb. After about two kilometres, we were on the peridotite.
As you meander along ancient fault lines, you get to be up close and personal with the incredible geology that makes up the largest ophiolite complex in the world. Trekking up the peridotite valleys, such as Red Rocky Gulch, is one of the highlights of the Lewis Hills Traverse. Our first night on the trek, we camped in Red Rocky Gulch, enjoying the emerging stars, a roaring fire and a hot meal. During the night, it rained and in the morning we got to watch the fog burn off the hills.
I took a picture of a curious little plant this morning, later finding out is was a sundew! How appropriate because that's exactly how I found it - covered in dew drops in the early morning sunshine. The day blossomed into a blue bird day and we set off to climb the rest of Red Rocky Gulch. Along the climb up the gulch, there are multiple waterfalls down inside the canyon, and the rocks we were traversing were SO gorgeous - all the colours and patterns! As we gained elevation we could look out and see the Blow Me Downs and Serpentine Lake.
Now up, we began to head south and had only gone a few hundred metres when we saw a herd of caribou! Mostly calves and cows that were not interested in posing for photos.
After only another two or so kilometres, we were at Rope Cove Canyon. Never in my life have I seen a place so amazing! The contrast between the peridotite and gabbro, with the ocean in the background is remarkable - there is no where else like it on earth!
We stayed at Rope Cove Canyon for a while, just taking it all in. Then we continued south, making our way to Molly Ann Gulch. What a different valley! Molly Ann Gulch is all green and lush, with waterfalls tumbling into it. Both valleys face due west and would make great places to camp and watch the sunset.
The next day was the summer solstice and I was right where I wanted to be - outside hiking! Solstice 2013 was paired with summiting Newfoundland's highest point, the Cabox, making this one to remember. Like many Newfoundland summits, approaching the Cabox was a pretty gradual climb with the "summit" signified by a large cairn and a sign.
Making our way down now towards Fox Island River, we passed this amazing erratic poised on top of smaller rocks - how did that get there?! Then we connected with the trail again, following the metal posts down into another peridotite valley. Here the trail is really easy to follow down right to Fox Island River, where you take off your boots and wade across. The last climb out of the river valley, gives you amazing views of where you came from. Then it's through the bog and forest until you hit Cold Brook Road and hopefully you have ride waiting!
There is no other trek like the International Appalachian Trail's Lewis Hills Traverse - it's remote, barren, extreme in its terrain and weather, yet so special because of the of the landscapes, wildlife and beauty. If the Lewis Hills Traverse is on your bucket list - what are you waiting for!
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Let the trekking season begin!